Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/309

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

nothing. To see the victim's writhings makes the inflicter forget his own pain. Destroy, by all means, come what may!

To plot evil against others is mingled with an acceptance of some responsibility. We risk ourselves in the danger which we are bringing upon another, because the chain of events sometimes, of course, brings unexpected accidents. This does not stop the really malicious man. His enjoyment is proportionate to the victim's agony. The malicious man delights only in the sufferings of others; pain reflects itself on him in a sense of welfare. The Duke of Alva used to warm his hands at the stake. The pile was torture, the reflection of it pleasure. That such feelings should be possible makes one shudder. Our dark side is unfathomable. Supplice exquis,—"exquisite torture" (the expression is in Bodin[1]),—has perhaps this terrible triple sense: search for the torture, suffering of the tortured, delight of the torturer. Ambition, appetite,—all such words signify some one sacrificed for some one's gratification. Can it he that the outpourings of our wishes flow naturally in the direction to which we most incline, that of evil? One of the hardest labours of the just man is to expunge malevolence from his soul. Almost all our desires, when closely examined, contain what we dare not avow. In the thoroughly wicked man this malevolence exists in hideous perfection. So much the worse for others signifies so much the better for himself. Oh, the deep depravity of the human heart!

Josiana, with that sense of security which results from ignorant pride, had a supreme contempt for all danger. The feminine power of disdain is extraordinary. Josiana's was unreasoning, involuntary, and confident. Barkilphedro was in her eyes so contemptible

  1. Book IV. p. 196.